Hens and Chicks go by the name of Sempervivum tectorum, and they’re very pretty-looking plants. The easy-care hardiness of hen and chicks varieties led to the Sempervivum name, and this translates into “live forever.” The common name refers to the plant’s small rosettes that it produces for the smaller rosettes (chicks) with a larger, mother rosette (the hen). These are evergreen perennials that grow indoors or outdoors in a huge range of planting zones and require very little water.
So, how do you pick out the best hen and chicks varieties for your container or landscape design? You may prefer to have one texture over another, multiple colors, or a looser rosette pattern over a tightly packed one. It’s hard to go wrong with these cute succulents, and we’re going to outline several colorful hens and chicks varieties to consider growing to create a textured and eye-catching display.
General Information About Hen and Chick Varieties
The arrangement and shape of these succulent plant leaves can add unique texture and ornate interest to any summer garden, no matter if it’s large or small. This is a succulent annual that is native to the northern South American and Mexican mountainous regions. The first Echeveria species was discovered by a Spanish botanist named Atanasio Eheverria Codoy in the 18th century.
The common name for this plant, Hen and Chicks, came from the vegetative offsets or new plants that the mature hen and chicks varieties will produce. The mature plant is the hen, and it develops several offsets called chicks that surround the mature plant until the offsets get big enough to support themselves. In nature, the offsets break away from the hen once they mature, but you can also cut or pull them off and transplant them into your garden. The hen will benefit from removing the offsets since it spends a good amount of its energy supporting the chicks.
The Echeveria genus falls into the Crassulaceae plant family, and this makes it a very close relative to the Sempervivum genus commonly called chicks and hens. Since they use the same common name, this can lead to mild confusion between the two. However, you should note that Sempervivum is native to the Mediterranean islands and southern Europe, not the United States. The two genera also offer very different winter hardiness as Echeveria is hardy in zones 9 to 11 while Sempervivum can survive in zone four and up, making them appropriate to grow in more regions in the United States.
Today, there are many hens and chicks varieties to choose from, and they come in a range of unique colors, leaf shapes, and textures. The leaf colors range from blue to green, pink to purple, or even shades of gray. You can find cultivars that have green centers with maroon-tipped leaves, or there are ones that have bluish-gray leaves that curve inward. The straight species has pink edges on blue leaves.
Due to the fact that this is a succulent and it’s not very winter-hardy, it’s best to use it as an annual or add it to container gardens, rock gardens, or mixed borders. Grouping several hens and chicks varieties is a great way to show off the diverse leaf shapes and forms. It’s also important that you give this plant full sun and sparingly water it as it prefers to be in dry soil.
This hen and chick variety forms a bi-colored rosette with green leaves that have deep burgundy edges. They work very well in patio containers, and they prefer to be in zones four to nine. This is a perennial plant that produces one big rosette and several small rosettes that you can remove to make new plants. They’re a very hardy set of plants, and they usually form pointed leaves in a deep green coloring. When you give them stronger exposure to sunlight, the colors get more vibrant and eye-catching.
2. Berry Blues
This very deep-hued hen and chick variety tends to spread very quickly across your yard when you plant it, and it does very well in rock gardens. As the name suggests, it has greenish-blue foliage coloring that is surrounded by a burgundy center. It maxes out at four inches tall, and the plants can easily produce offsets that spread as much as a foot before they flower. As a bonus, this hen and chick variety is much more cold-tolerant than most cultivars, but it’s not as heat-tolerant and will grow best in zones three to eight. You can purchase this cultivar in four-inch pots from most big-box stores or from your local garden center.
3. Berry Bomb
You’ll love seeing this hen and chick variety in your rock garden or along the wall once you get them in place. They give you a stunning statement piece in your garden as they form cupped leaves with deeper clusters of three to four-inch rosettes that turn a burgundy-purple hue in the early spring months. At other times during the year, the foliage will take on a more silvery or green look than the berry coloring, but it’s always a pretty addition. This succulent is hardy in zones 5 to 10, and you can usually find it sold as a trio with other varieties tucked into the same pot. You can find them in 3 ½-inch nursery pots from big-box stores.
4. Black Rose
While the color of this hen and chick variety isn’t quite as dark to match your favorite little black dress, it’s very hardy and has a classic look. It will also swirl like your favorite skirt, but upward. Black Rose will form green rosettes that get roughly four inches tall and spread out up to six inches wide. They develop blackish-purple tips that get much more prominent as the weather gets warmer. The color looks stunning in a container with other succulents that have red tones.
It’s easy to confuse this cultivar with Aeonium arboreum ‘Black Rose,’ as this is another rosette-forming succulent that comes from a different genus and has a blacker, more saturated color with thicker stems. You can get it in two, four, or six-inch pots from Succulent Garden retailers or your local nursery.
Boissieri succulents are hen and chicks varieties that have a mat-forming growth habit. It has pointed rosettes with very chubby leaves, and they will produce bristly margins that are covered with hairs. The leaf coloring is a bronze green, and they have very bright red tips. They also produce star-shaped purple and red flowers, and they grow best when you plant them in zones three to eight. They originate from around Europe and in northern America, and they work very well in window boxes.
6. Cherry Berry
Cherry berries are a hen and chick variety that produce a very large rosette with a bright red hue. They’re also hardy when you use them for patio planters or wall plantings. They’re an evergreen plant that prefers to be in zones four to nine, and this is actually a historic set of plants that have succulent-like foliage. The rosettes will grow very rapidly, and they turn a deep cherry red color from green when they get enough sunlight.
7. Chocolate Kiss
Chocolate kisses come with a larger rosette that tends to take a brownish-burgundy color, and you typically put them in rock gardens. You can also use them as ground covers or as wall plantings without a problem, and this hen and chick variety prefers to be in zones four to nine. They form a big rosette and several smaller ones, and it would be a great choice for beginner gardeners as they are easy to grow and grow quickly. They’re native to Africa and Europe, and they produce very fleshy leaves that retain water.
8. Cinnamon Starburst
Cinnamon starburst is a hen and chick variety with a unique color. Once they mature, they produce outward-facing leaves on the rosette with a very deep cinnamon red coloring. You can consider adding them as ornamental plants for your table, or you could grow them very well in patio containers. They also work well in any smaller tabletop planter, and they prefer to be in zones three to eight. You’ll also get an upright growth habit to make them slightly taller.
9. Cobweb Houseleek
This is a more famous outdoor plant, and it is covered with a very hairy, white, cobweb-like substance that sets it apart from many other hen and chick varieties. It’s a low growing plant that develops rosettes, and the webbing usually extends from the leaf tip to the mass in the center of the rosette. The leaves have a red or green tint to them, and they work very well planted in rock gardens or walls. If you expose them to colder temperatures or full sun, they turn brown and purple. They prefer to grow in zones 5a to 8b, and they’re endemic plants found in the mountains or Europe.
The fine hairs that grow on the edges of this hen and chick type make it look like it’s dressed up in a fine lace, and it has a light green color. The rosettes on this plant are more dainty too, and they max out at roughly three inches tall and three inches wide. The plants can spread up to 10 inches, and this is a very hardy plant to have, despite the delicate appearance. It’s hardy in zones 5 to 10, and the rosettes will develop a light red blush on the tips when exposed to bright sunlight while the base stays more green as summer brings the hot weather. You can get them in two, four, or six-inch pots.
11. Cosmic Candy
Cosmic candy is a hen and chick variety that produces rich red rosettes during summer and spring. They also have a cobweb-like substance in the center to add contrast, and they would be a perfect addition to your living wall or rock garden. They prefer to be in zones four to nine, and they are an evergreen succulent that produces pretty pink flowers. They also take on a fuzzy texture as they mature, and the colorful leaves are the most striking thing about this plant.
12. Cotton Candy Rosettes
This is a very unique-looking hen and chick variety that has green-colored leaves with burgundy edges. However, the highlight of getting this succulent is that it offers a cobweb-looking center. They form tidy clumps or rosettes that are green and fragile, and they also produce star-shaped flowers in a light pink coloring as they mature. They prefer to be in zones three to eight, and this is a very frost-hardy plant.
13. Desert Bloom
Maybe you want to bring succulents from arid regions home to grow in cooler climates because they remind you of warmer spaces. This hen and chick variety brings a desert vibe with it, and it grows much quicker than most types of cacti if you plant it in zones four to nine. It produces rosettes that are roughly three inches square when they mature, and they surround the mass at the plant’s base in clusters. This plant spreads around eight inches, and it produces pointed leaves in light green that take on a dusky pink color during the spring and lilac in the winter months. It also has a protective waxy coating on it that makes it smoother, just like the jade plant.
14. Gold Nugget
As the name suggests, this hen and chick variety produces rosettes with a bright gold hue and red edges. During the summer months, they turn a bright lime green color before fading to gold in the autumn months. They’re fantastic in rock gardens, containers, or in borders, and they grow best planted in zones three to nine. They’re evergreen plants that flower in the summer and fall months, and they’re native to Europe and Africa.
This hen and chick variety is a cultivar of the S. calcareum species that is known for producing very large rosettes. It has sharply pointed leaves that form rosettes that are six inches wide and they get the same height. They can spread up to a foot when they mature, and each point has a pretty mahogany hue to give you a bold and big plant. This oversized succulent is hardy in zones four to nine, and it gives you a very high-impact option for using in a winter landscape. In cold months, you can grow it in a hardscape, rock garden, or in containers.
Hurricane is a cultivar that offers striking and unusual cobwebbed designs. It takes the name because it has a swirling growth habit, and between each curved rosette with green foliage with a red tint, you’ll see cottony, wispy growth. If you squint, this can resemble the eye of a storm. It is hardy in zones 5 to 10, and it produces very compact rosettes than you’ll get with most hen and chick varieties. They get roughly three inches tall and three inches wide, and you can get it in two, four, or six-inch pots.
17. Lilac Time
The open rosettes of this hen and chick variety features have been compared in looks to water lilies, and it comes in a range of pretty colors. You’ll find lavender, deep pink, and silvery greenish-gray hues on the one or two-inch rosettes as the season goes on. It may not have the lilac scent, but it makes up for it by being a colorful addition to your winter landscape. It spreads a few inches wide, and it’s hardy in zones two to nine.
As with any succulent, the key to keeping this variety happy is to have excellent drainage. If it’s pouring out, provide cover or consider planting it in a pot that you can move to a sheltered location if heavy rain is in the forecast. ALso, never water it overhead. The open growing habit of the plant’s rosettes means that they hold onto water, and this can promote disease if they’re constantly damp. It’s great to mix in with other chicks and hens to create a colorful pot.
18. Mint Marvel
Mint Marvels grow to form a big rosette in a greenish-blue hue along with tips that are a burgundy wine color. You can consider growing them as ground covers, in rock gardens, or in borders, and the leaves also have a mint-green coloring at the base, as the name suggests. They prefer to grow in zones four to nine, and they can withstand frost without any issues. They also produce a huge range of offsets per plant, so they spread out more than they grow tall. You’ll see flowers pop up in a light pink shade.
This is a wild and odd chick and hen variety, and the leaves come in a unique tubular shape as it grows. They also have bright red tips, and they’re very popular as a houseplant because of their easy-going nature. They produce fleshy leaves in clumps, and they form smaller, new plants that cluster around the bigger mother plant. The leaves are a green color, and they like to curl inwards to form the tubes. American succulent enthusiasts developed this chicks and hens variety, and they prefer to grow in zones two to nine.
20. Red Lion
Originally bred in Belgium, this hen and chick variety produces kittens-sized, tight rosettes that get four to five inches wide and three inches tall. But, it’s the color that gives this plant a boost. The foliage is a very bright red, and it has fine silvery hairs along the edges. These plants are hardy in zones 5 to 10, and they hit their peak color with the brightest red in the late winter or early spring months. In other seasons, they are a very bright lime green with light red mottling.
21. Strawberry Kiwi
This is a garden plant that doesn’t have any historic value attached to it. They produce rosettes that are red and have yellow or green margins. You’ll get some wavy waxy lines or watermarks that could help shield them from direct sunlight, and they start to flower in summer and fall. They prefer to be in zones four to nine, and you get a very eye-catching mix of colors with this succulent. You’ll get a larger rosette with a tight cluster of smaller ones around the base, and they work well in borders, as wall plantings, or put into rock gardens for a pop of color.
22. Sugar Shimmer
There are certain succulents that make you think of Italian wedding cookies, and this hen and chick variety does just that. It makes a silvery, small addition to your container or rock garden, and the leaves look like they have a fine dusting of silver-toned powder on them, but this actually comes from the fine hairs on the plant. When it starts to get warmer in the summer months, the silver leaves take a blue-green hue, and the leaves develop purple edges. They’re hardy in zones four to nine, and they form three to six-inch tall rosettes that spread up to eight inches.
23. Watermelon Ripple
Finally, the last hen and chick variety we have on the list is Watermelon Ripple, and this one can withstand drought conditions without any issues. They have leaves in burgundy or dark red coloring, and they have a green center with green tips. You can use them in containers or rock gardens and they’d be happy, but they grow best planted with other chicks and hens. They form a rosette in a deep red color with bright green edges, and they’re a nice pick for someone who lives in a cooler planting zone because they can withstand frost conditions without damage.
These 23 hen and chick varieties all make fabulous additions as indoor plants or outside in your rock gardens or living walls. Their easy-going nature and the need for less water make them great for beginner gardeners, and they add a welcome pop of color and texture to your space all summer long.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.